My actions, I believe, result from the sum total of my past experiences and my current understanding.
Because of this, I know exactly why I frowned when the keynote speaker told a story about a naked female butt on stage at a conference. And a month later, when a different man told a dirty joke while on a panel discussing legal issues, I frowned again. Neither speaker’s topic had anything remotely to do with sex, but they still shared anecdotes laden with innuendo. Continue reading “Should I Lighten Up?–Now on The Good Men Project”
About a year ago I started a new job and penned an essay entitled, What Does it Mean to be a Contribution? In it, I chronicled how ego and selfishness led me down unproductive paths until awareness dawned. I eventually realized two things. First, I had only one chance to live a life of purpose and to make my unique contribution to the world. And second, I had the power to act.
In general, I’m proud to say I’ve heeded every one of the lessons I explained. Specifically, I’ve given my best and honored the best in others. Although I’ve kept these promises I made to myself, I’m not claiming victory. I’m writing now to report on my progress. To say yes, I’ve contributed, but also to share that I’m still fighting an occasional battle with a terrible beast. She’s ugly, mean, and smells like sweaty feet. I’ll call her Sally. Continue reading “Self-Deception: The Enemy of Contribution”
My husband and nine-year-old daughter browsed the wares at an estate sale not long ago. While they shopped, they spoke to each other about everyday things. Then you, hearing their voices, came up to my husband and scolded him. “We speak English in America,” you said.
I’ve been thinking of that moment, wondering why you felt it was okay to say this to my husband and daughter.
I remember November 24, 2014 like it was yesterday. The dreary weather in Chicago matched my spirits as I drove to work, wanting only to turn my car around, pick up my children from school, and head home.
I’d learned just hours earlier that twelve-year-old Tamir Rice had been gunned down by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio while playing in a park. I couldn’t help but think, “that could’ve been my child.” My children were twelve, sixteen and seventeen; a daughter and two sons; African American. Tamir Rice was playing in a park. He wasn’t in a gang, didn’t live or hang in a ‘bad neighborhood,’ and was threatening no one. He was a child!
I pulled into the parking lot at the high school, turned off the car, and said to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?”
My mind twisted in knots trying to figure out what I could do to protect my children, but I had to walk into a building pretending that a tucked-in shirt and a good education would prepare these Black and Latinx students (and my children) for the dangers they would face on the street. Continue reading “Guest Post: That Could Have Been My Child”
More than once I’ve been dead wrong about the reality of a situation for one simple reason: Instead of asking questions, I made assumptions. Though I detest this in myself, my sphere of influence is relatively small. Thus, I can do little harm. But, the same cannot be said for others in positions of power. Their failures to question assumptions can lead to disasters, as illustrated by Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been criss-crossing the country lately. Not only have I been to five destinations in six months with work, but Paul and I also went to Nevada for a long weekend. Invariably, someone is driving me somewhere in each of these trips. And those someones have stories.
I learn things when I sit in the back of someone’s cab, car, or van. You might recall my experience with a cabbie last year when a simple question resulted in a truly unique conversation about his road to recovery from a gambling addiction and his path towards helping the homeless. These more recent stories are like that, but different. Continue reading “Three Different Stories, One Common Thread”
Last summer my husband and I took a bike ride along a trail near our house. I think about a lot of things when I’m riding a bike or running. On this particular occasion I was thinking about death. One thought in particular: Dying is the only obligation of the living.
Obviously, some things we cannot choose, like getting hit by a car or assaulted by a bad guy (or gal). But we can choose our response to the situation. We can decide what we do next.
I can also decide my actions. For example, I don’t have to obey laws or treat others with respect. I might go to jail and have no friends as a result–but still. I pretend I don’t have a choice as to whether or not I do certain things, like scrub the toilet or get an oil change, but I do. These decision could mean I pay a price, but they’re still my decisions.
Admittedly, sometimes I complete some of these seemingly obligatory tasks only to avoid the painful or inconvenient impacts of NOT doing the thing.
For example, I recently filled out multiple forms with my name, birthday, social security number, address, previous medical history, shoe size, astrological sign etc. in preparation for my first appointment at a new dentist. The many swear words I used throughout the whole processes attested to how much I enjoyed it.
In his 2010 book, Linchpin, Seth Godin writes, “The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.” I would not want to meet my lizard brain in a dark alley.
The limbic cortex, aka the lizard brain, is the part of our gray matter responsible for making it very very hard to be our best selves sometimes. It wants to keep us safe, help us survive, even help us win competitions at work or at play. But all it knows is how to react, not how to respond reasonably and in appropriate proportion to a given situation.